The Upgrade

Behold a Layover in the World's Best Airport... Complete With Pool, Movie Theater, and Butterfly Garden

Epic.

Hi! It’s Ben Schlappig here, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, and the guy who introduced you to my uber-luxury travel lifestyle — all made possible by miles and points. Yesterday I took you on an outrageously fun Hello Kitty flight from Taipei to Singapore. After hours in the air surrounded by Hello Kitty video games, toilet paper, and even barf bags, it was time for our last flight leg to get to our first destination: Bali.

We started with a three-hour layover at Singapore Changi Airport. Most people dread layovers, given that most airports (especially in the U.S.) are unpleasant places to pass any time.

Singapore Changi Airport is different, and has been consistently ranked as the world’s best airport.It really feels more like small luxurious city all wrapped into one complex that just happens to have airplanes departing from it.

First, the airport has endless shopping. From every high-end designer to major electronics stores, you can find it all. Personally, I’m not really into shopping — if there’s one thing that living out of a carry-on has taught me, it’s that material possessions don’t make you happy. It’s all the other amenities at Changi Airport that I love, even for those without lounge access.

Did your last layover have a pool?

There’s free Wi-Fi for everyone, comfortable places to sit and relax, a gym and pool, a free movie theater, and a butterfly garden (naturally).

Changi's butterfly garden

There's even an airside transit hotel, which means if you have a long layover you can rent a hotel room without even having to leave immigration. It’s something I love doing for a long layover, since there’s nothing like sleeping in a “real” bed for a bit, even if you’re flying in first or business class.

Picking the right layover airport can make such a big difference in terms of the overall experience of a trip. One of the cool things about redeeming miles for airline tickets is that you can often have a free stopover in a city for just under 24 hours.

Singapore is a city where I do that all the time. While it’s personally not a place I’d make my primary destination, it’s a great place to spend a quick overnight layover. The city is clean and safe, and the airport is close to the heart of the city. Beyond that, Singapore is a very approachable city. Almost everyone speaks English, the food is excellent (without being too “adventurous”), and there are lots of sites you can visit in a short period of time, given how centralized the city is.

We just had a few hours before continuing on KLM to Bali. KLM is a Dutch airline, so it may seem a bit unusual that we were flying a Dutch airline between Singapore and Indonesia. Well, that’s because we were on what’s known as a "fifth freedom flight," an airline that operates a route between two countries where they’re not based. Our particular flight started in Amsterdam and arrived in Singapore, where it would then fly to Bali and back to Singapore before continuing on to Amsterdam. Still with me?

There are lots of flights like these, even in the U.S., and they are brilliant for many reasons. For starters, they’re often priced lower than the competition, given that airlines can’t really compete in terms of the number of flights they offer in a market where they’re not based. Plus, they offer an exotic, and often better, all around experience. For example, Singapore Airlines is known for its incredible service, so being able to fly them between the U.S. and Europe is a special treat.

In this case, we paid for business class tickets on KLM that were actually cheaper than economy tickets on Singapore Airlines. We could have redeemed miles for the flight, but at this price, it made no sense to do so. (If you're redeeming miles correctly, sometimes paying cash is a much better value than using miles.)

On my way...

The flight time was only two hours and 30 minutes, yet it still included a full meal, flat beds, and excellent service. But my favorite part of flying KLM business class might be the cute miniature Dutch ceramic houses they give out before landing.

Collect them all!

These houses, which have gin inside of them, all resemble real houses in Amsterdam, and there are nearly 100 different ones to collect. (Unfortunately, I don’t fly KLM enough to have collected a substantial number of these, but given that they don’t travel especially well, I’m not sure my collection would be all that useful.)

Now that we've arrived in Bali, we'll have a couple of five-star properties to check out in the next installment!

FOLLOW MY JOURNEY:

In case you missed my Hello Kitty-themed journey to get this far, read about my tricked-out flight here.

And the wildly theme-y airport experience in Taipei to match!

And here's where it all began at LAX.

What the heck is a "Fifth Freedom Route?!"

Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!

Jet Set is Bravo's launch pad for the most extravagant, luxurious, and unforgettable travel experiences. Ready for takeoff? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.

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